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A blood product transfusion is a very common and safe procedure. Blood that has been collected from one person (a donor) is placed into a special bag for storage and then transferred into your child’s blood stream when required.
The Australian Red Cross Lifeblood collects blood from volunteer donors and has very high safety standards. All blood donations are checked to determine the donor's blood group (ABO) and to check for infections or viruses in the donated blood.
The blood product is slowly administered directly into your child’s vein through a drip (intravenous or IV therapy).
Some children require a single blood transfusion and others require many. Blood product transfusions are given for a number of reasons, including:
If your child needs a blood product transfusion, your doctor will discuss with you:
You will be asked to sign a consent form to allow your child to have a blood product transfusion. You can ask questions and discuss any concerns you may have with the doctor before you agree to your child having the transfusion.
In an emergency, the doctor may have to give your child a blood transfusion urgently. There may not be time to have this discussion with you first.
Often whole blood is collected and then separated into different blood products, and your child will only be given the part of blood that they need.
Sometimes FFP is separated into other blood products, including:
Your child will need a blood test, called a blood group and antibody screen, to match their blood type to a suitable blood product.
Unless your child already has one, an IV will be inserted into a vein, which may cause some brief pain and discomfort. If your child is distressed or uncomfortable, you can try distracting them using some of the techniques in our fact sheet
Reducing your child's discomfort during procedures.
Before the blood product transfusion begins, two nurses will check that the details on your child's wristband (full name and date of birth) exactly match those on the blood product. You may be asked to participate in this check. This will happen each time, even if your child needs many blood
A blood product transfusion can take up to four hours. A pump may be used to ensure the blood product is delivered over the correct time frame.
Most children feel comfortable and no different to usual during their transfusion; however, they may become bored or restless. If your child is going into hospital to have a transfusion as a day procedure, it is a good idea to bring in a smartphone, tablet, MP3 player or books to keep your
A few children may get a fever or a rash during their blood product transfusion. These can be treated with medication so that your child is more comfortable. Let nursing staff know if your child starts to feel unwell in any way or if you are concerned.
Very rarely, more serious side effects can occur, such as:
Your child will be carefully monitored during the transfusion. Nurses will frequently check their temperature, heart rate, breathing rate and blood pressure.
The risk of contracting a virus or infection from the blood product transfusion is extremely low.
What are the alternatives to having a blood transfusion?
Your child's doctor will explain if there are any
alternatives to blood transfusion that may be suitable for your child. These
may include taking medicine to help the body replace its own blood, or during
some surgical procedures your child's own blood may be collected, washed and
returned to them.
Will the blood product transfusion hurt?
In order to access your child's bloodstream, an
IV will need to be inserted, using a needle. This causes brief pain and
discomfort. Once the transfusion is underway, your child will not feel anything
happening, and they should feel no different to normal.
Developed by The Royal Children's Hospital Blood Management Committee. We acknowledge the input of RCH consumers and carers.
Reviewed January 2023.
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This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.